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Quick as a Flash

Filmed in 1952 for NBC

The Show:

Quick as a Flash was a long-running radio series that Bill hosted, so it was logical to find him hosting this television pilot. 


Celebrities (Boris Karloff and Wendy Barrie in the pilot) were paired with contestants and competed in a series of "races." Each race is a skit or short film loaded with misleading hints to the identity of a famous person, place, thing, or event.  Among the races in the pilot: a war movie parody in which the "pilots" are actually storks preparing to deliver the Dionne quintuplets, and a pair of actors with thick Brooklyn accents portray a bickering couple, with the blindfolded players trying to guess from the conversation that they're Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.


As the title might suggest, speed was a factor in answering the questions.  As the film plays, the contestants can hit their high-frequency oscillators (you and I just call 'em buzzers) to stop the clues and give a guess. A wrong guess eliminates a celebrity from the race, but not their partner; two wrong answers eliminate the contestant from the race, but not their partner. A correct answer pays $25 (and if it's the celebrity giving the correct answer, a charitable donation will be made as well).

In addition, one race is the Pyramid race, which starts at $100 and carries over each episode until won.


​This is an interesting pilot showing how TV was still throwing things against the wall in its infancy. As the medium discovers it can be more than radio with a picture attachment, and here we're seeing a rather elaborate radio game show being adapted into an even more elaborate TV show. Thumbs way up for creativity on this one.


Even though this pilot was made for NBC, the series did have two brief runs on ABC in 1953 and 1954.  Bill was not the regular host for either one of them, although a newspaper listing indicates that he guest-hosted the May 18 and May 25, 1953 episodes.


Bill and Bud Collyer had some strange instances of overlap in their career. Bill hosted Winner Take All on radio, Bud Collyer hosted it on TV, with Bill stepping in on at least one occasion to fill in for Collyer on the TV version. Bill also hosted the radio version of Beat the Clock, with Bud Collyer taking over the TV adaptation. 


This pilot is traded among collectors. Curiously, there are no known surviving episodes of the ABC series, so Bill's rejected pilot is the only remnant of the TV run.

Quick as a Flash game show Bill Cullen
Quick as a Flash game show Bill Cullen
Quick as a Flash game show Bill Cullen Boris Karloff
Quick as a Flash game show Bill Cullen
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